The State gave up on efforts to convict customers on a weird theory that the drug customers had become “co-conspirators” with the drug trafficking organization. All charges against Justin Jaybird (not his real name) were dropped on 11/29/16.
The strange saga began with a combined DEA-State investigation into methamphetamine distribution in the middle of Florida, including Polk, Highlands, Okeechobee, and Glades Counties. Fifteen individuals were indicted in federal courts for methamphetamine distribution conspiracy, United States v. Steven Oakes, et al, Case No. 15-CR-14042 (So. Dist. of Fla.). Others were charged with similar crimes in Polk County, State v. Stephen Hall, et al, Case No. 2015-CF-6476.
Prosecutors in Okeechobee County sought to expand the “conspiracy” to include ordinary customers who allegedly purchased small amounts of meth for personal use. Jaybird retained Attorney Garland shortly after his arrest on 8/28/15.
The initial discovery suggested that prosecutors were seeking to expand the RICO law beyond the scope of its original purpose. Attorney Garland first moved to transfer venue from Okeechobee to Glades County, since charges against Jaybird related strictly to alleged events in Glades County.
After 15 months, the State finally recognized that the ill-conceived prosecution should be dropped.
Racketeering suggests some type of organized crime. Think of the mafia or a drug trafficking organization. It is an improper expansion of the purpose of a RICO prosecution to target small-time customers.
Many of those “customers” plead guilty to conspiracy to racketeer out of fear or lack of funds. Jaybird, however, pushed back. He and several others successfully resisted and had all charges dropped.
Florida law provides generally that an illegal drug buyer does not “conspire” with drug sellers for small amounts of drugs.
Purchasers of large amounts of illegal drugs are in a different situation. Common sense suggests that large scale purchasers are probably going to sell or distribute the large amount of illegal drugs. Prosecutors tried to apply the large scale drug purchase rules to small scale buyers for personal use. The entire basis for such a prosecution defies logic and experience. Why would prosecutors want to waste government resources on small scale purchasers who, if actually guilty, would probably qualify for drug court or probation?
The Florida legislature has established several programs intended to divert small-time drug users. This policy promotes treatment and rehabilitation so that the small time user can resume his contributing place in society. The misuse of RICO laws to target small-time users undermines the legislative policy in favor of treatment and a second chance. The only possible explanation for RICO prosecution of small-time users is to feed the illusion of ever-increasing levels of crime in order to justify the cost of the police-prison industrial complex.